Rotterdam: With Floating Farm, Urban Farming Is Put To Sea
The Netherlands Is Reinventing The Way City-goers Can Shop For Their Produce– Atop A Floating Farm
By Jill Webb
Most city-goers don’t know where their produce comes from, but at the world's first floating farm, shoppers not only know where their dairy products come from but get to see the process up-close.
The self-sufficient, eco-friendly farm is due to start construction in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in April 2018. The farm will produce dairy products from the cows that will graze on top of the farm.
The idea for the farm came from the growing international issue and concern of unsustainable food production.
Each year, the use traditional agricultural techniques dwindle, especially in cities where the relationship between citizens and farmers is getting pushed further and further apart.
“It’s important that you look for new opportunities to build,” said Minke van Wingerden, from the firm Beladon, a partner of Floating Farm.
“Our idea is why not build on water because 70% of the Earth is water,” Wingerden said.
And so, Floating Farm decided it was time to test the waters.
Farming as clear as day
As far as company transparency, the Floating Farm takes things very seriously– and they’re not afraid to show it. Their building is constructed out of glass windows, so when shoppers take a trip to pick up some milk, they can see the cows who produce it.
The entire process is transparent, both literally and metaphorically, to support the idea of consumers understanding the development and background of what they’re buying.
Their production method is dependent upon cycles of nutrients, energy, and water. They try to keep waste minimal, even reaching out to other Rotterdam businesses to reuse what they can for the farm.
“For example, we have a lot of beer breweries in Rotterdam, we use the waste products of the breweries to feed our cows,” Wingerden said. Reducing waste, shortening the logistics chain, and bridging the gap between customer and producer relations are some of the most important goals of Floating Farm.
A cash cow
If you’re worried about the cows adjusting to life at sea, don’t fret, because Floating Farm is completely animal-friendly.
The 40 cows grazing on the Floating Farm are Montbéliardes, a breed known for having excellent milk production and little health issues. Having a breed with a good health record is important because Floating Farm tries to use the bare minimum of medicine.
If the cows do get sick, their veterinarian will be contacted as soon as possible to target exactly what is wrong, ensuring a speedy recovery with minimal medication.
Calves born on the farm get handled carefully too. During the six weeks following their birth, they live in single boxes to promote individual care and deter any risk of spread of disease.
Once six weeks is up, the young calves take a trip to North Kethel, to roam the meadow polder all day and night long. When those calves are almost ready to become parents, they travel back to the Floating Farm to live and work as dairy cows.
The Montbéliarde will typically produce 25 liters of milk on a typical day and are tended to by a milking robot.
This technological upgrade allows cows to live comfortably and stress-free. They only get milked when they feel fit, unlike on a farm where human milkers are under the constraints of working hours.
More to come for the sustainable city
Rotterdam is an inventive city, especially in terms of sustainability. It is the home to the Floating Pavilion, a Bobbing Forest, and the Aqua Dock. In 2018, the world's first floating homes, the Habour Loft Apartments, are scheduled to open in the former city docks.
Like it's ever-developing city, Floating Farm’s innovation doesn’t stop once construction is complete. Floating Farm wants to continue discovering new ways to be sustainable, along with promoting agriculture education.
They will invite students to help further research developments in urban farming, including feed production, residual dust processing, energy reduction and generation, and drinking water production.
And cows are only just the start for floating agriculture.
“This first one is with cows, and we will continue with chicken farms, and the next one will be a vertical farming greenhouse,” Wingerden said. “We are going to create and complete, as we call it, a complete floating food strip in Rotterdam.”
Next time you’re shopping for milk and are skeptical about the brand you’re choosing, just remember, there are plenty of other cows in the sea.
Jill Webb is a journalist who is always seeking out new and exciting places to write about. She is especially interested in telling stories about people from places that are typically ignored by the mainstream media. She is from Port Jefferson, NY.